LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 07: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist #14 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates during the exhibition game against the Morehouse Maroon Tigers at Rupp Arena on November 7, 2011 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
This is the second in a three part series in which I analyze the 2012 NBA Draft by position. As a source I used DraftExpress's mock draft and for statistics I used both DraftExpress and Sports-Reference. All statistics used are for the prior college basketball season. Because of the lack of advanced statistic information, difference in playstyle and the dearth of quality foreign players in this year's draft, I have only included NCAA players in this analysis. For information such as player position, school, height, etc. please click on the player's name and it will take you to their DraftExpress page with all that information.
The search for the Kings wing of the future continues for the fourth straight year following Ron Artest nee Metta World Peace's departure in a trade. Since then the Kings have attempted to fill the spot with the likes of Andres Nocioni, Donté Greene, Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi, Dominic McGuire, Ime Udoka, Desmond Mason, Antoine Wright, John Salmons, Travis Outlaw, Tyreke Evans and Terrence Williams. Either the players have been wholly unfit for the role, or were slotted out of position at the SF spot out of sheer desperation for some production there.
Sacramento had a chance to rectify the problem once more in last year's draft with top prospect Kawhi Leonard available, but the Kings (and 14 other teams) opted to pass on Leonard. They did grab Tyler Honeycutt with their first pick in the second round, but Honeycutt has proven to be a very raw player and it is still a complete unknown if he will ever develop into an NBA rotation player let alone a starter.
This year's draft has a few players who could easily become the Kings Small Forward of the future should the team opt to go that way.
The player that will receive the most accolades in workouts and from scouts is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Kentucky. MKG was a superb all-around player for Kentucky this year, contributing with tough defense, good rebounding, and an aggressive attacker's mentality. By all accounts, Gilchrist is a guy you would love to have in your locker room, a player that works hard and puts the team before himself. We all know just how much the Kings could use someone like that. Gilchrist would not solve the Kings outside shooting woes as he himself is a poor outside shooter, but he does have good mechanics and a solid mid-range game. Gilchrist thrives offensively by attacking the basket, where he does an amazing job of getting to the line, with a Free Throw rate reminiscent of a big man. He's also the youngest player in the draft, turning 19 in late September, so he still has plenty of upside.
A less versatile but still intriguing option is Harrison Barnes, who is more likely to be available when the Kings pick. Barnes is a scorer first and foremost, but possesses great size and length for an NBA SF. He reminds me of someone like Rudy Gay, but unlike Gay he doesn't possess the same explosiveness and also isn't that great at creating his own shots. Barnes lives on getting open for spot-up opportunities, and he still wasn't all that efficient doing that despite having one of the best set-up men in the country in Kendall Marshall. Of the wings in the draft, Barnes was the third least efficient.
Gilchrist and Barnes are probably the only wings that go in the lottery, but Terence Ross and Quincy Miller both deserve at least a mention. Ross took over the mantle of Washington's star from Isaiah Thomas and did well. He can score, rebound and defend. Pac-10 schools often get overlooked and I think Ross probably deserves a look in the late lottery. Miller on the other hand came out of school too early. He wasn't particularly good on a mediocre Baylor team, and he is still very raw. There's upside in Miller, but definitely not enough worth taking in the first half of the first round. If he falls from the first into the second (unlikely but I've seen stranger things happen) then he'd easily be worth the pick.
In the second round there are a couple options I really like. Darius Miller played a key bench role for Kentucky and fit well with all the talent they had. He was efficient from the field, and also moved the ball as well. Another player worth a look is Jae Crowder, who played more of a big man role for Marquette. Still, he'll probably have to make a living at the wing in the NBA thanks to his height. He's a good rebounder, but not an amazing one that indicates he'd make a great NBA big like Kenneth Faried (who he looks like, dreadlocks and all). Crowder is exceedingly versatile though, able to shoot, pass, steal and block while also barely turning it over. Crowder might not be the answer as the starter at the wing, but he would be a great option as a roleplayer off the bench.
The rest of the wings are a bit of a mixed bag. Will Barton deserves a mention for his good all-around game, but his measurements are similar to that of a super skinny Tyreke Evans, which isn't really ideal for an NBA caliber SF.
Sacramento could potentially solve this cursed wing problem at last via the draft, but I have a hard time seeing that happen. Gilchrist appears to be the only sure thing, and the Kings are only getting him if they get lucky in the lottery. Barnes is a player who I wouldn't feel too enthused about drafting, although the talent that made people fall in love with him out of high school is still there. Ross will be available, but I don't think he's good enough to outstrip other players (notably big men) that would also be available.
NOTE: I left Perry Jones III off of the wings list as I put him with the bigs. A lot of people feel that he is better suited to be an NBA SF than a PF but I disagree. More on that tomorrow.